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Treading on Eggshells

Another pun intended post. Exactly two years ago today I was preparing to take one of the average 40-60 injections per IVF cycle. My very last injection was the most critical injection of them all, called the 'trigger shot'.

This injection would allow my ovaries to release the abundance of eggs my body was forced to produce, in order to facilitate the success of the treatment. What would then happen is 24 hours later the IVF patient is scheduled to go under anaesthetic and have the eggs collected for the next stage of the cycle. This was the hardest part of the cycle as the medication from start to finish left me in pain and most importantly changed my body. my peak point left me extremely swollen and uncomfortable , and ironically looking very pregnant due to suffering from mild OHSS.

I will explain this in more detail in a future post, but for now I want to talk about the most painful part of the journey - 'the womb watchers'.

There seems to be an unwritten rule that as soon as a married couple say 'I do', then the stopwatch starts ticking for the couple to start a family. Yes, we are conditioned to expect; 'first comes marriage than comes a baby'.. or whatever order is now the norm in our society. What we in some ways forget is that will not be the so called 'fairytale' for all newlyweds.

Excuse me if I you have noticed that I mostly refer to a family unit as 'married', as I 'm talking from my personal experience , but also trust that you can identify within your individual situation.

The journey I am still on has completely humbled me and taught me a great lesson on how we must be careful and not add to the pressure couples have to start a family as soon as the wedding reception ends, or within a specific timeframe after they have been together. Most importantly it's easily assumed , but yet unknown that not every couple has it easy. Statistically in the UK, 1 in 6 couples will have difficulty conceiving. And more so will need fertility treatment to help them conceive.

So imagine how it felt being the recipient of so many uncalled for comments/statements/questions relating to my status on having children :

Disclaimer: These are true accounts of my personal experience:

"Have you been to see the doctor yet...?"

"Oh you're pregnant , finally..."

"What's taking so long...?"

"Can I give you a book that helped sister & brother so and so..." {from a church mother!)

"Oh you started late..."

"Are you having enough sex...?"

"Are you sure you're not just stressing"

"I know how you feel, it took me 6 months to get pregnant"

"Maybe God is trying to tell you something"

"Try fasting and prayer"

"Change your diet"

The list goes on...and gets worse!

When I refer to womb watchers, it's the crazy , yet most inevitable event of having obsessed relatives and other accomplices stare at your midsection soon after you get married. And so missing week of church, absenteeism from a regular social group or a regular catchup with any mention of feeling unwell warranted or entertained the never-ending assumptions of the womb watchers.

After a time I got used to the same old , but it started to become more painful after every failed treatment cycle (not all IVF cycles), resulted in a puffy face, and swollen second trimester looking abdomen, yet a negative pregnancy test. Now brace yourselves but sometimes I felt that looking like this had it's silver lining - it deterred people from asking about pregnancy , and promoted them to assuming things.

Back to the silver lining, it was intriguing to see how much more people are interested in you when you are supposedly expecting. At times I was so close to going along with it, (sad I know) but yet too scared to actually entertain something that was simply so far from reality. Crazy I know, but trust me and believe me ; for the most part of 2-3 years being pumped with foreign hormones and being prodded and poked messed me up mentally. I mean I was generally in a safe place, but also extremely vulnerable.

I was basically treading on egg shells...

My turning point to a positive direction was when I became more vocal, those who know me well will probably agree that I have a tendency, or maybe I'm just simple a 'tell-it-how-it is' kind of girl.

I began counselling through my clinic and my therapist (gosh, excuse me but in my most sincere respect that sounds so 'American', however talking to her was indeed therapeutic).

she asked me what the hardest part of my journey was- I explained that it was getting to the point where it felt I had to answer to people, I have to manage their expectations, and pretend like everything was OK, and that I was just a newlywed who wanted to enjoy being 'just married', when that wasn't the case. She then turned it around and played out a scenario about a client of hers who explained that we are well within our rights to not answer questions about our 'starting a family status' , and if you are going to answer - teach them how awkward such a question is by asking them;

"When did you last have sex, and did you c**? " (sorry mama)

In reality as blunt as I can be, I wouldn't ask that, but it's to drive the message home that questions about family planning are very personal , particularly when you are at risk of asking a couple who are facing extreme difficulty or find it to be a touchy subject full stop.

My most awkward and yet saddest moments when asked questions about anything fertility related would normally occur just after a failed treatment, a miscarriage, days when I was fuelled and my emotions were heightened due to the fertility medication. it was tough and heart wrenching...

It was a constant reminder that I was barren and the one thing I was purposed as a woman and a wife to the man I love - I had failed. (cue the sad music on the 'romcom' movies).

So back to my therapist - lets called her Tilly (Tell-it like-it-is-Tilly). Looking at the bigger picture her advice taught me one thing that transformed how I coped with the issue: to be true to myself and remember I owe no one an explanation. So on a Mothering Sunday at church there was a call out after a lovely sermon. They asked if anybody wanted to become a mother, and if so to come up to the altar for prayer. I was so nervous , I was sweating , my throat felt dry and it felt as if my heart was beating out of my chest ; yet I felt it was a perfect opportunity for me to get another kind of help- spiritual support and prayer. It was myself and another lady who bravely took the longest walk up the aisle towards the altar and were prayed for. I will NEVER forget that day and it was a poignant reminder that I was determined and brave to be in a position of vulnerability. IVF is not the 'be all or end all' - in fact the chances of success are lower than you think. So I very much walked over there remembering that I still need help. I didn't decide to go there to make a statement , but I guess going up to the altar was a hint and statement in itself. I noticed from there on the questions became less frequent and I more so would get a random message of encouragement "Sister Vanessa I'm praying for you", or "Remember GOD is faithful"...

Some of these words encouragement came from the womb watchers, but you know what.. they've always meant well- they just had to learn. In life you may sometimes have to teach people how you want to be treated as we are imperfect human beings who will unintentionally cause hurt to others. But next time someone asks you the question, remember you have a right to simply not answer the question or make it clear to them that its none of their business.

And for all of us... remember you never know what battle someone is fighting. If you are a believer , seek the Lord and ask for his direction on how you can pray for the respective person. Or quite simply if you feel led to compliment or encourage them, do so without prying or offending ... it goes a long way.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing".

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Keep an eye out for a post I will put up on the website with some examples of what to say and what NOT to say to those struggling with infertility.

Be blessed,

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